Shifting as an executive function separate from updating and inhibition in old age: Behavioral and genetic evidence

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Behavioural brain research


This study aimed to examine the organization of executive functions (EFs), specifically working memory updating, prepotent response inhibition, and mental-set shifting in old age, with a particular focus on determining whether the shifting function was behaviorally and genetically separated from the other functions. A total of 248 healthy older Chinese individuals participated, and multiple measures of executive functions were collected. Additionally, measures of fluid intelligence were included to explore the varying relationships between the three executive functions and this higher-order cognitive ability. Furthermore, genetic data were gathered and analyzed to investigate the associations between EFs and six candidate single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) mapped to dopaminergic, serotonergic, or glutamatergic genes. The results indicated that both the three-factor model and the two-factor model, which combined updating and inhibition, demonstrated a good fit. Furthermore, shifting was found to be behaviorally separated from the other two functions, and the correlation between shifting and fluid intelligence was smaller compared to the correlations between updating and inhibition with fluid intelligence. Moreover, the DRD2 SNPs showed significant associations with shifting, rather than with updating and inhibition. These findings provide evidence that shifting is distinct and separate from updating and inhibition, highlighting the diversity of EFs among older adults.

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Humans; Aged; Executive Function; Memory, Short-Term; Cognition; Inhibition, Psychological; Intelligence

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